View Full Version : Khatami Arrives As U.S. Weighs Sanctions on Iran

05 Sep 06,, 21:28
Khatami Arrives As U.S. Weighs Sanctions on Iran

Former Embassy Hostages Criticize Trip

By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 5, 2006; Page A16

The stormy saga between the United States and Iran takes one of its most unusual turns since the 1979 revolution as former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami arrives in Washington to give a major address on Thursday, the same day that the Bush administration holds talks in Europe on new U.N. sanctions on Tehran.

Khatami's five-city U.S. tour this week has ignited both controversy and curiosity -- infuriating former hostages from the 1979-1981 U.S. Embassy seizure and alarming some in Congress but winning praise from foreign policy experts. The former president's speech at Washington National Cathedral is a hot ticket, with attendance now by invitation only.

Khatami's visit has also been controversial in Tehran, where a newspaper called the U.S. visa "suspicious" and a critic suggested the Shiite cleric should be defrocked for committing "worse than a sin" in his trip to the United States. Many Iranian exiles in this country are also enraged, with some threatening protests. Yet Iran's supreme leader and its hard-line current president did not try to block the visit, Iranian sources said.

Khatami's tour comes as the State Department presses for punitive action for Iran's failure to meet a U.N. deadline to suspend uranium enrichment, a process for nuclear energy that can be converted to develop a nuclear weapon. As an incentive, Washington held out the prospect of joining European talks with Iran and ending 27 years of hostility. But Iran spurned the European-designed package.

"We've been trying hard to show there are two paths here," Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns said. "That's why we made the offer to negotiate. They clearly have not accepted that path, so now we have to begin the sanctions process."

Burns will meet in Berlin on Thursday with diplomats from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia to discuss which sanctions to impose on Iran, the first leg of what may be a heated debate. The administration hopes Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be able to wrap up the resolution when she attends the General Assembly opening later this month.

But the administration is not cutting off all forms of dialogue. "We're going to maintain a policy of no contact between the two governments, but at the same time, that doesn't mean that Americans outside government shouldn't be talking to Iranians. Americans should take every opportunity to address the concerns we have over terrorism and nuclear issues with Iranians who visit our country," Burns said.

Khatami, who was president for the two-term limit from 1997 to 2005, is the highest-ranking Iranian to visit Washington since the Carter administration severed ties in 1980. He is also speaking in Boston, Charlottesville, Chicago and New York on the role of the three Abrahamic faiths in the peace process. He turned down an invitation to meet with former president Jimmy Carter, partly because of scheduling conflicts, according to Iranian sources.

Foreign policy analysts say the administration is signaling that it will not close the door on reformers such as Khatami who favor a freer press, political openings and dialogue with the world, while it will isolate hard-liners such as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for violating U.N. resolutions and talking about wiping Israel off the map.

But human rights groups say Khatami's government also violated human rights and supported extremist groups. He was president when President Bush labeled Iran, along with Iraq and North Korea, the "axis of evil" in 2002.

"He never wanted to create instability or a situation that would lead to violent confrontation," said Hadi Ghaemi of Human Rights Watch, an international monitoring group. "He was devoted to preserving the Islamic regime . . . so he never challenged those who had real power."

Many problems -- the crackdown on student protests, banning of new independent newspapers, and arrests and deaths of critics -- were linked to hard-liners in the separate judiciary or vigilantes sanctioned by Iranian intelligence. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, also has veto power over all government actions.

Former hostages are outspoken about Khatami's visit. "Can an ex-U.S. president do the same in Iran?" asked John W. Limbert Jr., former embassy political officer. Kevin J. Hermening, an embassy Marine guard and the youngest hostage, said U.S. officials have "completely lost their minds" in dealing with Iran. "Every time we agree to 'talks' it is seen as another indication of weakness and capitulation," he said.

Giving Khatami a visa was a "despicable" decision by the State Department, said former embassy press attaché Barry M. Rosen. "His dialogue of civilizations is nothing more than a public relations stunt by the oppressive regime."

L. Bruce Laingen, who was the ranking U.S. hostage, said he will attend the speech because he believes in talks, despite serious problems with the regime and doubts that Khatami has any power since Ahmadinejad replaced him.

In a 1998 interview with CNN, Khatami said he regretted that American feelings were "hurt" by the embassy seizure -- adding that U.S. policies had also seriously hurt Iranians. "In the heat of the revolutionary fervor, things happen which cannot be fully contained or judged according to usual norms," he said.

Like other hostages, Laingen said those words were not enough. "The question I would put to him would be: What do you think your government owes the hostages -- and I don't mean money, but something more than what he said to CNN."

Foreign policy experts largely approve of the Khatami visit. Geoffrey Kemp, a Reagan administration national security official now at the Nixon Center, called the decision "quite smart" and added: "We have nothing to lose by listening to Mr. Khatami . . . since he is highly influential behind the scenes."

Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Washington had missed a "huge opportunity" to engage with an "imminently engageable leader" when Khatami was president, all the more striking just a year later under Ahmadinejad's rule.

Senior Clinton State Department official Wendy Sherman said the United States might not be in confrontation with Iran if Khatami's visit had happened six years ago.

But Danielle Pletka, a vice president at the American Enterprise Institute, called the Khatami visit "surreal" and disputed descriptions of him as a "pragmatic mullah."

"If someone at the State Department can prove that the nuclear program didn't improve under Khatami, that terrorists weren't sponsored under Khatami and that arms were not shipped to Hezbollah under Khatami, then by all means let's label him a pragmatist and embrace him," she said.

Congressional leaders also criticized the trip. In a letter to Rice, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) appealed for the visa to be denied because the State Department had ranked Iran the No. 1 sponsor of terrorism every year Khatami was president.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom wrote the Washington National Cathedral to complain about the "troubling irony" of inviting Khatami to speak on interfaith cooperation when he presided over a government that imprisoned, harassed, tortured and even executed religious minorities.

Commission Chairman Felice Gaer called on the cathedral to appeal to the former Iranian leader to "denounce and express regret" for past violations of religious freedom.

It is an interesting development.

There is good reasons for the hostages to feel infuriated, but then one has to know one's adversary and maybe some good may be a fallout of this trip.

05 Sep 06,, 23:52
He always pushed himself as a reformer, but Khatami recently showed everyone his true colors as a stooge of the mullahs! :mad:

06 Sep 06,, 02:02
in the end, khatami is still khatami. he's a reformer, yes, but a reformer with an overall conservative system.

but then again, one cannot expect thomas bloody jefferson! he's certainly a lot better than a-jad.

06 Sep 06,, 19:03
in the end, khatami is still khatami. he's a reformer, yes, but a reformer with an overall conservative system.

but then again, one cannot expect thomas bloody jefferson! he's certainly a lot better than a-jad.

People thought the same thing about Rafsanjani. Yet for some reason the non-expat Iranians voted in that madman President McSquinty.

06 Sep 06,, 21:14
I heard a TV interview on CNN by Zane Virjee of Khattami and he wasn't acting a nut like Ahmedinejad.

He was balanced and did not go hammer and tongs on the US, even though the interviewer tried her best to put him off.

I do hope that the US has been able to get an insight into what is the mind of the Iranian government.

07 Sep 06,, 10:58
Timing of Top Iranian's Visit Curious

Roland Flamini | Bio | 04 Sep 2006
World Politics Watch Exclusive

It was no more than coincidence that former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami arrived in the United States Friday, one day after the U.N.-imposed deadline on his country to halt its uranium enrichment program, according to U.S. officials.

The United States granted Khatami an entry visa despite rising tension between Washington and Tehran over what the Bush administration considers Iranian efforts to develop nuclear weapons because -- a State Department spokesman said Thursday -- there is "no political substance to his visit."

But observers said it was possible to read too little into the former president's trip as well as too much. While the timing may not have been deliberate, the international effort to pressure Iran into stopping uranium enrichment that could lead to weapons development did raise some questions about what was in effect a high-level Iranian visit.

After a diplomatic freeze lasting more than a quarter century, Khatami is the most senior Iranian figure to arrive in the United States -- outside of the U.N. in New York -- since the Iranian revolution brought the ayatollahs to power in 1979. He was originally scheduled to attend a U.N. conference next week of the Dialogue of Civilizations, an international panel launched jointly last year by Spain and Turkey. But when invitations came in from U.S. organizations and in other American cities, the Bush administration agreed that he could visit other parts of the United States.

On Saturday, Khatami addressed the Islamic Society of North America's annual convention in Illinois - where, incidentally, the program was scheduled to include a show by Islamic comedians called "Allah made me funny." Khatami will speak at the National Cathedral in Washington on Sept. 7, and participate in a forum at Harvard's Kennedy School. He will also visit Thomas Jefferson's home in Monticello.

The fact that Khatami got his visa despite protests from Jewish groups and from some members of Congress is considered by some to be no small development. The former Iranian president is not scheduled to meet with any government officials but he could have contacts with people on the margins of the administration. A White House official told the Washington Post that Khatami is not a member of the current Iranian government, and "is free to meet with who he chooses and is able to speak freely in the United States - the very freedoms that do not exist in Iran."

Khatami, however, was given a visa reserved for visiting diplomats, and has a security escort provided by the State Department. The Chicago Tribune reported Sunday that agents of the Secret Service, which provides protection for the president, cabinet members and foreign embassies were on hand in the hall during Khatami's speech.

Khatami also arrives at a moment when the United States has decided to engage Iran diplomatically. At Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's urging, President Bush recently agreed to direct contact with the Iranians, first quietly on Iraq, and then mainly through the U.N. Security Council on the nuclear issue. The Security Council's five permanent members and Germany gave the Iranians an August 31 deadline wrapped in a package of technological incentives to halt uranium enrichment. The Iranian response last week was to offer "serious talks" but Tehran has said nothing about stopping its nuclear plans, which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insists are for peaceful purposes only.

A moderate reformist, Khatami was defeated in last year's presidential elections by the Islamic fundamentalist Ahmadinejad after two terms in office from 1997 to 2005 that had promised more change than was actually accomplished.

Khatami is on record defending Iran's right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. It was on his watch that the program was started in the first place, and in secret. But had he remained in power it's assumed that he would have shown more flexibility in the current negotiations over Iran's intentions.

For one thing, the world would have been spared Ahmadinejad's violent anti-Israel rhetoric. At the funeral of Pope John Paul II in Rome, Khatami and Israel's Iranian-born President Moshe Katzav, who were both born in the same town, greeted each other cordially in public.

Khatami's value as a potential back-channel interlocutor is that although out of office he remains influential as a member of the clerical establishment headed by Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which is where the real power lies in Iran. Not that he has shown himself to be demonstrably pro-American. Middle East experts point out, for example, that while in office he never disavowed Ayatollah Khomeini's actions when the latter was supreme leader, including holding 52 Americans hostage in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran for 444 days.

In his converntion speech Saturday, he said America's anti-terrorist offensive was having the opposite effect of causing "the intensification of terrorism and institutionalized violence." At the same time he said that he had been among the first leaders to condemn the Sept. 11 attacks as barbaric. "I knew this inferno would only intensify extremism and one-sidedness," he commented.

He also called on Islam to develop a new identity that embraces the modern world and tolerates other religions: For a robed senior cleric from a country that is seen to have put the clock back for Islam, that is quite a statement.

Roland Flamini is a former TIME magazine foreign correspondent and author.


I hope the back channel chaps engage him in dialogue and some light at the end of the tunnel is made visible.

buisness man
07 Sep 06,, 11:45
If i was american and i had this bozzo preaching crap to me on the anirversery of 911 i would tell him to go and get stuffed.

08 Sep 06,, 15:41
In U.S. Visit, Iran's Khatami Urges Dialogue

By Johanna Neuman, Times Staff Writer
September 8, 2006

WASHINGTON — Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, undertaking an American tour rare for ex-officials of the government in Tehran, called Thursday for a "dialogue of civilizations" among Jews, Christians and Muslims, even as he scolded the Bush administration for its treatment of detainees and other alleged human rights abuses.

"I do not deny that there are a lot of problems in Iran. But I would certainly say those are not [worse] than the problems and violations in places like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo," Khatami said at a news conference before a speech at Washington National Cathedral, referring to the former U.S. military prison at Abu Ghraib near Baghdad and the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. "Let's condemn the violation of human rights wherever it takes place."


Not bad.

Not bad at all.

But a trifle bland.


Where from you do hail?

08 Sep 06,, 16:03
"Let's condemn the violation of human rights wherever it takes place."
Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami
Clean out the smell in your own stable, befoe complaining about that in others.

buisness man
09 Sep 06,, 10:43
Not bad.

Not bad at all.

But a trifle bland.


Where from you do hail?
Well thanks there raymond.

10 Sep 06,, 01:06
india, pak and israel give up nuclear first (http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_1791511,00050004.htm)

Amid global concerns over Iran's controversial nuclear programme, its former President Mohammad Khatami has said the beginning in the region should be made by 'eliminating' atomic weapons of India, Pakistan and Israel.

Asked whether there is a way out of the current crisis with the US accusing Iran of trying to build a nuclear weapon and Tehran denying it, Khatami told Time magazine that the region has three states which possess hundreds of warheads with Israel having the biggest arsenal.

"The biggest (arsenal) is (of) Israel. And then Pakistan and India. If there are serious concerns about nuclear weapons, we should start by eliminating those that already exist. And the US does not display any sensitivity whatsoever to these issues, to these nuclear weapons. None of the three have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but Iran has," he said.

Iran, Khatami said, has the right to have access to nuclear energy. "And we are ready to give every guarantee that we would use this for peaceful purposes. Our leader (President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) has issued a decree prohibiting the production and the stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction."

Sigh... I am speachless..

10 Sep 06,, 07:14
Arrest him, and toss him in Gitmo...

10 Sep 06,, 07:30
Arrest him, and toss him in Gitmo...

I nominate Confed for Americas' next Diplomatic Ambassador to the UN. Seconds?

10 Sep 06,, 13:19
I second that and while he is at it, he can represent India too (err.. is it allowed?)

10 Sep 06,, 20:35
I, on behalf of Macmohan Singh, permit Confed to be the Indian representative too.

It will save the Indian govt some travelling allowances.

Pay Confed in Cheetos after convincing TH to part with his, by telling him that it is not good for his karma.

10 Sep 06,, 20:44
I'm no diplomat. Either way, nobody wants me to have any real power. ;)

10 Sep 06,, 20:50
If there is a diplomat on theis Board, then it is YOU.

Just check all your posts. ;) :)

10 Sep 06,, 21:11
If there is a diplomat on theis Board, then it is YOU.

Just check all your posts. ;) :)


10 Sep 06,, 21:47
Pay Confed in Cheetos after convincing TH to part with his, by telling him that it is not good for his karma.

Convincing? Could I borrow cpl of nukes from you? Otherwise I don't see TH parting with Cheetos.